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The Engineer Reconditioned (2006)

The Engineer Reconditioned (2006)
3.95 of 5 Votes: 1
0809556146 (ISBN13: 9780809556144)
cosmos books (pa)
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The Engineer Reconditioned (2006)
The Engineer Reconditioned (2006)

About book: This creative collection of short stories by Neal Asher will provide an excellent introduction to his work for those unfamiliar with it, as the standalone stories cover his favorite themes and strengths: high-intensity action, richly described alien biologies, villainous religious cults, and much violence. Returning readers will also be rewarded by references and tie-ins to his other future histories, The Polity, and The Owner universes. The title novella, 'The Engineer', deserves special attention due to its length and polish. A Polity story, it tells of the discovery of an ancient alien escape pod by a science vessel who manage to revive the advanced being within. News of the discovery brings attention from various factions and soon a classic Asher full-scale conflict erupts. I was a little surprised by the altruism and bio-centric technology of the Jain alien in this story, having only the example from Asher's "Orbus" novel to compare with, but as is clearly shown with the various human factions in the Polity stories, species and societies are more diverse that any single specimen would illustrate.The three "Owner" stories shared a common plot device for their climaxes, so I won't spoil them with a description, other than to say I would have appreciated a more varied 'reveal' in the stories chosen to accompany one another in a collection. Taken individually, all three are thrilling and wholly engaging stories that bring a low-tech fantasy element to Asher's SF which I hadn't seen before.My favorite story in the collection, "Spatterjay" is probably the most dependent on a familiarity with Asher's other novels, in this case the Polity trilogy of the same title, as it deals with a setting and characters so vividly colorful that they are difficult to absorb in so few pages. It serves as a prequel to those novels, and even more so than any of the other stories in the collection it brings some wild alien biology to life for the reader- a whole ecology in fact!The other five stories here each have interesting aspects, but can be grouped and summarized by saying they revolve around unique alien biological oddities which are expanded and extrapolated into skeletons on which to hang a brief story. Interpersonal drama, tension, and subtlety are not really to be found here, but imaginative and intense moments of action will make them memorable for most readers, I believe.
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Ten years ago I would have given more points. Even two years ago it might have scored 4. But after reading most of Asher's novels this collection of short stories seems dated, repetitive and less polished.Yet, I give the book one extra star because of its own interest tracing the genesis of Asher's different universes and tropes, and how some of his great themes were there already from the start.Another problem is that Asher's ambitious plots and settings are not well suited to the short story format, as it requires space to grow and present itself.The best part of reading this book is that it made me reread Spatterjay, a good novel.
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